Ima’s brother Will (always the one to give advice) wrote to her about a list of books he had recommended for her. Too bad we don’t have her comments about Will’s list.
Probably you are correct about the biographical series—American and English men of letters. They are critical biographies, one volume to the man—so strike ’em out. Now Missey, I raise my voice in alarm—leave the American Statesmen series of biographies in the list. The clearest and most interesting road to a general knowledge of America’s Kingdom’s history goes along the lives of the men in those books. The boys will find helpful, man-making reading there.—So please leave them in. Why, James Stefinn will enjoy them.
Let me plead in your own behalf for another book in the list—Stevenson’s Letters. There’s not a more fascinating, absorbing name in latter-day letters than R.L.S. Now those letters will please and instruct you.... His works, put on the shelves of that library! Now Boswell’s Life of Johnson—is not long and will tell you of a man. Do as you like here—though, leaving the book in the list now will, when you come to read it, furnish ample cause for congratulation.
Before I close, let me admonish you to guard yourself from a habit of—reading that weakens, that does not instruct, that only serves to amuse in a time-killing way—a method of reading worse than no reading at all, almost. The kind of reader you must not become and which you will probably become is the butterfly-reader, the humming-bird-reader; the reader who tastes of everything within a binding and digests nothing; a flirt and coquette with good taste and thoroughness. I say you will probably become such because the larger number of readers I have seen are just such readers—I know you will become such unless you start now in the direction of thoroughness. . . .
Among the Ima Hogg papers is a small composition book . In it are her notes on Hugo’s Les Miserables, Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, and J. M. Barrie’s 1896 novel, Sentimental Tommy.